MOST of us knew Bob Shearer as a champion golfer. But renowned course architect, ROSS PERRETT, reveals another side to Shearer.

BOB Shearer was a brilliant golfer, but an even better bloke.

He was a star who never got ahead of himself. First and foremost, he was a family man who loved his wife Kathie and his two sons Bobby and Brett.

He was also a great raconteur with a sharp memory; very knowledgeable about American history; was interested in crime stories; loved driving cars; and was always loyal to his mates. 

In 1969, Bob won the Australian Amateur Championship and loved to support the local tournaments. He had a sixth sense about the essence of golf courses even when he hadn’t been there before.  

When you are the best sportsman in your school, academia comes second in Australia because our heroes are the sportspeople – Don Bradman, Peter Thomson, Dawn Fraser, Ron Barrassi, Herb Elliott, et al

Peter Thomson was a genius and could do just about anything. According to the principal at the time, Mr Noonan, Peter was the best cricketer or footballer to ever go to Brunswick Tech. 

It is history that Peter chose golf and went on to win five Opens and more than 100 tournaments. Similarly, Bob at Moorabbin Tech, excelled at Aussie Rules but chose golf. 

Bob Shearer pictured with Peter Thomson. Shearer went on to work with course designers Thomson, (Michael) Wolveridge and (Ross) Perrett.

 After his playing career ended, Bob was at home watching his favourite TV show, Perry Mason, when another career presented itself – golf course design. He was approached by the prolific golf course architecture firm, Thomson Wolveridge and Perrett (TWP), to help with their busy schedule. 

It was an experiment because being able to play golf is no guarantee of success. He was immediately useful because of his people skills and his friendly personality. But Bob wanted much more and was a quick learner. 

Bob and I were mates from the early days of The National Golf Club where Bob was the touring professional and I was the Master Planner.

Our first project together was Warrnambool Golf Club where first we met a local aboriginal leader for a tour of the land. He was explaining the creation story of how the black swan came from the whale. Bob was engrossed in the ancient yarn as we came over the hill to see the vista, which to his surprise, was a wetland hosting some black swans.

This close connection with land is fundamental to golf course design as it was way back in the 1890s when Old Tom Morris laid out Royal County Down. 

It is incredible how it has stood the test of time. Some 35,000 courses later it still sits comfortably in the world’s top 10 courses. Bob learned quickly that a golf course must respect the land on which it sits to be sustainable.

Respect for culture was the next lesson and was important for the next phase of his work. Australia is the oldest living culture and Asia arguably the oldest living civilisation.

TWP had jobs dotted all over Asia – in Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and eventually China. Luckily, Bob was a quick learner and the team worked very hard. Life on the road was like being in a rock band with multiple gigs each trip. Travelling in groups meant we rarely stopped talking work although the banter was first-class. It was very tiring but generally great fun.

Bob made significant contributions to most projects. For example, at Mt Merapi, the world’s most active volcano, it was Bob’s idea to re-route the short fourth so that it aimed directly at the volcano some three kilometres away. It is one of the most photographed holes in Indonesia.

So how did Bob make a successful transition to a new profession in his 40s?

Firstly, Bob wanted to learn and was in the right place at the right time surrounded by a talented team.

He also had a massive ‘memory bank’ of golf courses and golf holes in his head from his global golf experiences. 

Initially, he couldn’t recall it all but eventually it became easier for him to remember the specifics of Augusta, St Andrews, Royal Melbourne, Royal County Down and many other venues.

As well, he was great at learning on the run which suited the company’s frantic schedule at the time. The team had self-belief because we were constantly practising our craft. We problem solved on the run. 

But above all, Bob had a passion for golf course design. He loved it and we loved having him in the ‘band’.

To do this crazy job, with all the travel involved, you need the support of your family. Kathie would always be at the airport for a warm welcome and an entertaining drive home.

Thanks Bob – rest in peace. 

FOOTNOTE: Ross Perrett is the former managing director of Thomson Wolveridge and Perrett Pty Ltd. He is now working with another gofling great, Karrie Webb, through Perrett Webb Pty Ltd.

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